Michael Jordan Curated
Former American basketball player
CURATED BY :
How do you think that basketball now, is different from what it was in the 90s?
What suggestions do you have for the players entering into the dunk contest?
What do you remember most about your competition with Dominique Wilkins?
Does having an all-star game on your birthday calls for an even bigger celebration for you?
How do you think basketball in your era was physically more challenging than now?
Can you share with us a story about a High School basketball camp that you organized where you had to deal with a bully?
In your prime, who would you like to play one on one?
Were you nervous before the night before the championship game, that you won?
Why do you think winning, for Chicago a really important achievement for you?
How becoming a father has been one of the greatest experiences of life?
What did you do just after retiring?
Did you feel relief after you were over with the big announcement of retirement?
When did you realize that it was time for you to retire?
Do you think it was the right decision to retire when you were at your career best?
Do you miss your teammates after retirement?
How do you respond to speculation that you played for money?
How not making to the school basketball team embarrassed you and motivated you?
Why would you wear a new pair of sneakers in every game?
Do you consider it to be poor judgement on your part to go to Atlantic city during the time of play-offs?
Would you want to confront your father’s murderers?
Had not seeing your father on the stands cheering for you after his death lead to your eventual decision to retire?
How do you coalesce public perception and corporate’s projected image with your self image?
How do you describe a perfect day in your life?
How do you bend the rules of the game without the referee noticing it?
Why did you feel that you were the least likely to succeed, among all the kids in your family?
What was the reason behind your releasing a book?
Do you think it was good for you that you grew up in North Carolina instead of a big city like New York?
Were you good at basketball from your childhood?
Do you think your high school basketball coach Dean Smith undermined your abilities or misjudged you in any way?
Why do you consider basketball to not be your work?
How did you manage the huge sum of money that you earned at such a young age?
How did you manage to keep your fame and money out of your head?
Do you feel involved in the civil rights movement at all?
Were you happy to be playing for Chicago and living in it?
From where do you think the winning instinct in you comes?
Do you think that the press should respect the boundaries when it comes to the personal life of athletes?
What do you think an athlete owes the Press?
What do you think has been your impact on basketball in global sense?
Are you glad that you played in the Olympics?
When you played the way you played, did you at any point feel that you are above the competition?
Have you been offered a position in the front office of the Chicago Bulls after what you have done for the team?
What are your thoughts on your contemporaries Larry Bird and Magic Johnson?
Do you want to lead your son towards basketball?
To you what is a great player?
Who do you consider to be an underrated player?
What is your opinion of physical basketball?
What are the things you are not going to miss about basketball when you retire?
In which city would you find the toughest fans in the league?
How did you deal with a breach of trust made by a friend and how did you deal with it?
Are you a risk taker or a gambler in a good sense?
Who do you consider to be the greatest basketball player and why?
When you started playing baseball what did you reflect about in the downtime you got?
How do you respond to the unsubstantiated rumors that your time away from basketball was actually a suspension penalty for your gambling?
How did retiring from basketball, in 1993, to spend time with your family was not successful for you?
Why did you feel that you are not ready to be incorporated in the basketball hall of fame?
When you are watching a game do you ever envision yourself in game situations and think about how you would perform there?
What are the distinct roles of mind and body in contributing towards a basketball player’s career?
Are you worried that, unlike your contemporaries, you will not be able to find something as driving as basketball after retirement?
Has there been anything on the court that you wanted to achieve but you could not?
If you looked back to 1993 retirement, did you regret retiring then?
Do you think that if your had stayed intact after 1998 you could have won more?
How much does being called the greatest basketball player matters to you?
What are some of your favorite moments of the career?
How important was Dream Team for you?
Do you consider your game at Monte Carlo your best game ever?
What was the most motivating moment for you in your career?
What is your greatest disappointment in sports?
How would you evaluate the difference between you doing exceptional basketball manoeuvres and your team winning the championship?
Have you ever met anyone who you thought is as competitive as you?
Why don’t you consider yourself as the greatest basketball player ever?
Do you think you would have been playing major league baseball if you hadn’t returned to basketball?
What motivates you to be good at what you do?
Of all the rivalries you have had which one has been your toughest?
Which player you liked playing against the most?
Who do you think has played the best defense against you?
Was setting up statistical record in NBA a motivating factor for you?
How does it make you feel to be a role model for the youngsters?
When did you first realize that you had worldwide recognition and fame?
How difficult has it been to be famous globally?
What message do you have for the next generation of athletes?
How did you got to endorse for Nike even when your first preference was Adidas?
What has basketball meant to you over the years?
How do you want to be remembered?
How long did you think you could play when you came back in 1995?
How did it feel to see Kobe Bryant retire?
What are your thoughts on the evolution of basketball?
Did you see getting fired from the Wizards coming?
What is your opinion on today’s basketball players being over paid?
Did you dream about owning your own NBA team of your hometown North Carolina ever since your childhood?
Can you walk us through the journey of your team Charlotte Hornets getting a NBA game after two years of being formed?
What is the difference between being a NBA player and the owner of a NBA team?
What is your opinion of Kemba Walker who is a part of your NBA team that you own?
How has been your experience on the business side of the basketball court?
What do you remember most about your dunk contests with Dominique Wilkins and how did it helped to grow the game?
How do you think your understanding of the mentality of both the players and the ownership can eventually benefit the sport?
Can you share some bits of being a grandfather for the first time?
Actually, it’s fun because I can actually hold him and play with him and I’m having fun watching him.
What do you want your grandson to call you?
Have him call me Michael.
Have you been watching along on Sunday nights?
I watch every week. It's reminiscent of a time more than anything else—a time that I was there, that period where the Bulls just really ran over everybody. Every Sunday [on NBC], we had the game of the week—it wasn't like now where they've got games all week—and most of the time, it was Chicago. My job as a sideline reporter was to get insights and interview the star of the game after the game, who just happened to be Michael, who just happened to be one of my best friends. He set the bar so high and lived up to that bar every single time. That's the fascinating part. No one has ever been that great for that long and dominated the league in that way. There was a time when, if you were at the top of your business, you were the “Michael Jordan of banking,” or the “Michael Jordan of insurance salesmen.” If you were the greatest, you were the Michael Jordan of whatever business you were in.
Nowadays, when LeBron's going off in a playoff game, you can hop on Twitter and see athletes commenting. You didn't have that back then. As someone who knew athletes and Jordan's peers or contemporaries—as much as he had them—I'm curious what the conversation around him was like
One of the things that he used to always say was that he played so hard every single night because there was a chance that somebody in that audience had never seen him play before—and he was not going to disappoint him. He played hard every single night. He never took nights off. There was no resting him for the Finals, or cutting his time down. He was a guy that was on tour and having a sold-out show no matter where he went. It's a once in a lifetime thing to go to one of the Bulls’ games. I don't think anybody was ever disappointed.
As someone who's been along for the entire ride, what are the things about MJ that we take for granted now?
People don't really realize how hard it was for him—not only as a player but also as a team—to get past the Celtics, or to get past the Pistons, or to get past the Lakers. There was an interesting thing that happened that I was privy to—this was during the Dream Team [at the 1992 Olympics]. A bunch of guys were sitting on a pool table, and Michael and Magic got into a conversation about who was the best and playing one-on-one and all that stuff, arguing back and forth. Charles Barkley was in the room and he tried to speak up, and Larry Bird wouldn't let him talk because he had never won a championship. Patrick Ewing was in the room too and he tried to talk. [Bird] wouldn't let Patrick talk either. So the argument came down to Michael telling each one of those guys that it's a new day: I'm here now and if you don't quit when I show up at your building next time, I'm kicking ass. So you can quit now or you can take this ass-kicking that I'm giving you when I come around. [laughs] Finally, at the end of it—I was sitting next to Larry Bird—he just sits back and goes, "Magic, I guess we got to be quiet. We were then and he's now." It was respect all the way around.
You saw that respect in last Sunday night’s episode between Michael and Kobe at the 1998 All-Star game. It was just so cool to see that exchange.
It really was. Kobe would ask me a bunch of things about Michael every time I saw him. He'd call me and ask, "What does Michael do about this? How's he do that? How about his training? How about this?" He was just one of those kinds of guys. And Michael put him under his wing like a little brother. There was that kind of respect there.
Would you divulge stuff to Kobe?
Yeah. And then I'd tell Michael, "Hey, Kobe asked me this and that the other." He goes, "Yeah, yeah. Well, no problem." It was just a normal, friendly thing. There was one time when Michael had retired, and we were out in L.A. going to a Laker game. After the game, we went back to a room and it was just Michael, Phil Jackson, Kobe and myself. And Kobe challenged him to a one-on-one game. Phil Jackson was talking to Michael about coming out and helping the Lakers at practice or something like that. And then it was like, "You guys can play one-on-one." Kobe was not backing down. He wanted to play. [laughs] And they got a little back and forth, and then when we were leaving the building, we're leaving the arena, and Michael goes, "You know, I really respect that kid. Really respect that kid."
What does it take to earn Michael's respect?
It was being dedicated to going out and doing the best you can to win every night—not once a week, or two times a month. Bring it every single night. That's the kind of thing that really impressed him.
Last week’s episodes really explored the media scrutiny Michael faced. I know you faced your own backlash in your NFL career, especially in St. Louis after you’d changed your named to “Ahmad Rashad”—
[laughs] When I got booed all the way out of the tunnel onto the field?
Yeah. So I'm curious if you and Michael ever had any conversations or shared any wisdom about what it's like to face that public scrutiny?
You realize that you have to use it as inspiration. It’s either that or it kills you—one or the other. It's either going to break you, or it's going to give you something to make you soar. It's about getting better, being better, using things like that to make you go, “I got to go to practice tomorrow. I'm going to do an extra 15, 20 minutes.” Some people get knocked down and they have a hard time getting back up. But when your mind is right and you have a goal and you're trying to achieve that goal, nothing can deter you from that. All I can do is show you. If you think I can't do it, I'll show you I can do it. Just remaining confident. Because if you don't, it's going to chip away at you and it'll take everything away from you.
I felt like, in these last episodes, you could see the weight of the scrutiny on Michael. Someone was talking about how, though he didn't break any rules with his gambling, he violated people's expectations.
The gambling rumor was just that. It had nothing to do with playing basketball. And I think as it got out of control, when people started coming up with rumors of him gambling, that was just something that was…over there. It wasn't real. He likes to gamble. But that's not against any rule. His gambling would never have made him take his focus off of winning games and playing as hard as he could play. That happens to everybody who rises up in stature: They build you up and then they start trying to tear you down. At that point, you didn't really know much about him as a person. You just knew him as a great basketball player. And when it came to a head, that's when he said, "Look, man, go get a camera. Can you go get a camera? I want to do this interview right now. Let's get this thing straight right this minute." And it didn't deter him. He did the interview and he just moved on. There was no more conversation about it.
Did you tell him to take his sunglasses off?
Yeah. [laughs] I said, "Man, might help if you take them sunglasses off." He's like, "No man, go ahead." So we just went ahead. It wasn't just me and him in the room. The true story about this whole thing is when he called me and asked for a camera, I called Dick Ebersol. I said, "Dick, this is a pretty big deal, but I want to make sure we do it right. Here's what I would like for you to do so it doesn't look like, ‘Ahmad’s giving his best friend softball questions.’ I want you to write the questions.” And at the end of the interview I went, "Wait. Michael, don't leave." I turned around and said, "Is there anything else that we need to ask him?" Because I'm thinking about the fallout the next day. And it was like, "Nope, we got everything you need. It's all good." And then the next day, I had probably every sports guy in the world being like—I guess there was a lot of jealousy, first of all—"Ah, he was too easy on him. He shouldn't have done the interview with him. He should have done it with me." [laughs]
How heavily did all that weigh on him, though? Once it was over, did he really let it go?
Yeah. You know why? Because he wasn't guilty. He wasn't bullshitting. He wasn't lying. What else can you say? It did not deter him from trying to win more championships. That was the most important thing. All those commercials and all that other stuff, that was secondary. First? Winning championships.
There's a recent GQ interview with Tim Grover, Michael’s trainer, and, in the photo, you’re in the background. What was it like to be around him as he was training?
He would amaze you with how strong he was. He could do the iron rings—you know, with your hands out straight and you're holding those rings? He could do that shit! [laughs] That’s crazy strong. Never did he ever skimp. You talk about a guy who was dedicated—tremendously dedicated. But then, as you talk, he says, "All that stuff created my confidence.” If you ever saw him practice, he practiced as hard as he played in a game. So if you thought some of the things that you saw in a game that was just so fantastic, you should see what he was doing in practice. It was like the same guy: “I'm going a hundred miles an hour all the time.” And that is what gave him the confidence. Because he worked so hard at it. People think, “Well, he just showed up and he's just naturally talented.” He's naturally talented. [But] on top of that, he works harder than anybody I've ever seen, any athlete I've ever met. He had a goal, and he was hell-bent on achieving it.
Tim Grover also talks about how golf was part of Michael’s training regimen. How would you describe what golf did for him?
Golf is just about you. It's not about the other guy you're playing, it's about you. So it was a chance to get away from people, from the game, from all the hype around being Michael Jordan. It was a place to get away, but he was also trying to challenge the game of golf. He would play before games. I remember one time we went and played golf somewhere [before a game], and I was doing sideline reporting [that night]. I was so tired that I went to sleep on the sideline. I kept thinking, “How the hell can he be up there playing, when he just finished 18 holes?” He was just a different kind of human being.
Have you talked to him about the documentary?
Yeah, we talk about it. And more so than anything else, we remember. Last night, we watched it, and, at some point, something came on and I was like, "Hey, do you remember we had dinner the night before that?” It’s more like two friends looking back. For instance, I remember when they played Phoenix. Charles [Barkley] and Phoenix won this particular night, and I had to interview Charles at the end of the game. He was saying, "I talked to the Lord and the Lord told me that we're going to win this game." That was kind of a joke. So then, after, we went somewhere to have dinner, and Charles walked into the room. It was a private room in a restaurant. And Michael didn't speak to him. Nothing. They're friends, but they weren't friends during this. This was a whole different thing. Charles came in, he was trying to joke around, nobody really said anything so he just went right back out. And when you talk about somebody like Charles, and Charles says, “He’s the greatest player I've ever seen,” you have to take that into account. In championships, there was another star that was supposed to be in Michael's stratosphere. So at the end of that series, he wanted to put it down that nobody's in my stratosphere. Whoever it was, it was like, "Nah, let's see what happens at the end of this." And he loved it. Absolutely loved the competition. One time we were in his yard and we were just messing around, so I was trying to play. It was just the two of us. I was like, "Hey, let's play one on one." He was like, "Shit, I ain't playing you one on one." I'm like, "Come on, man.” He's like, "I ain't playing you." So he took the ball first and shot and made it. It was my turn to take the ball and every time I dribbled it, he took it. He wouldn't even let me dribble. He was guarding me so tight. I was like, "Shit, man, it ain't that serious, is it?" [laughs] “Yep, it is. I'm not going to let you make one basket. Matter of fact, I ain't going to let you even dribble." It only lasted about three or four minutes. I was like, "Okay, I quit. Let’s play football."
Has that competitive fire waned at all with time?
No, he's still one of the most competitive people you're ever going to meet. When we play golf, he's still just as competitive. And that's just him. That's Michael. He's ain't ever going to ease up. You're always going to get his best. And that's cool.
What brought you more pleasure, playing for the North Carolina Tar Heels or the Chicago Bulls?
That's a good question. I would say it was for the Tar Heels. No one knew me until then. That's when the notoriety and everything began with Michael Jordan. By the time I got to Chicago, I was drafted three, so everybody knew I was at least decent
Did you ever regret missing your senior year?
Yeah, because I had a great time in college. It was the first time I'd been away from home. I'd met new people and made new friends. It was an exciting time. It was just fun.
What was the rush to jump out early?
It was Coach [Dean] Smith's call. I relied so much on his knowledge. The NBA was an area where I wasn't too knowledgeable. My parents weren't knowledgeable about it, either. And it was a great opportunity. Coach Smith felt that it would be the best opportunity for me to make it in professional basketball. Once he researched the situation to find out where I would go in the draft, then I started weighing the pros and cons.
Wasn't that pretty unselfish of your coach, because it meant he would lose you the next season?
That was totally unselfish. It's the kind of person that he was. He could have said, "You should stay for your senior year. We have a great team with some great new recruits." Kenny Smith and Brad Daugherty were coming on. Our team was going to be really good. But he felt like for me, personally, going to the NBA was the best thing, and it was the best opportunity.
How exciting was it, going back this year, and watching North Carolina win the NCAA championship again?
I only went to one game in almost 21 years. One game at Notre Dame that I drove down for from Chicago in my second or third season with the Bulls. Other than that, I'd never been to a Carolina basketball game. To go there and see the tradition and see that everything was still the same was great. The camaraderie. The sport. The former players. The executives. Everything was the same. It was good for me to go back, and it was good for my kids to see. That's one of the reasons I went, was for my kids.
How did the fans treat you?
Well, it was a little different because of Illinois playing in the finals. I live in Illinois. It was the first time [Illinois] had been to a title game in so many years. But my true heart was with Carolina. And I think the fans understood that. They weren't bitter that I was supporting Carolina or that I was wearing the Carolina blue.
I read that almost the entire starting team of North Carolina has opted to go into the NBA draft, including three juniors [Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Sean May] as well as freshman Marvin Williams. Is this good for the players?
Is that good? I can be biased from the outside looking in. I'm very supportive of the university, and I would like to see them have the opportunity to defend the championship. In that respect, I think the players should have stayed in school. Just from a selfish aspect, I wanted to cheer for my university. But I don't have the understanding of what the family situations were for these players, or what motivates them. Sometimes you have to follow your dream. Their decision also depends on what Coach [Roy] Williams advised them, and about what pick they would be. That team had accomplished a lot in winning a championship. That's the ultimate prize. I think what my mother would have told me, as long as you go back and get that degree, then I can understand the sacrifice that you make to leave school.
Are these early exits from college good or bad for the NBA?
That depends, too. I'm a firm believer that a player should be 20 years old or older before going to the pros. Anything less than that is potentially bad. You've got a lot of things you have to take into consideration. The lifestyle. Just the mental and physical demands of the NBA that these kids are going to be dealing with are tough. And their whole maturity level, not only for basketball but on the personal side, too, has to be taken into account. If I had been a freshman or even a sophomore, no matter how good I was, I don't know if I would have been ready for what I had to deal with in the professional ranks. But you got more and more young guys doing it. I am a firm believer that something is affected by leaving college early, or not going to college at all.
Are you saying that kids should not be allowed to go directly from high school into the pros without some kind of college experience?
That's exactly what I'm saying. I'm a firm believer in that. You can argue a lot of different situations, from social to financial. Maybe there has to be some type of arrangements, or agreement between the NCAA and the NBA, for those kids who are not financially stable. For them, there will always be pressure for going to the pros, to take care of their families.
What about players like Kevin Garnett? Kobe Bryant? LeBron James?
But you're talking about one player, LeBron James, who's been very successful in his first two years. Kobe [Bryant], Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal—all those guys took at least three years before they adapted to what they had to do as professional basketball players.
Other players probably don't know what they missed, but you knew because you experienced college. What's important about staying in college?
You get the chance to mature in college. They get a chance to deal with a lot of issues in college. There's the education aspect, too. College teaches you a lot. It teaches you about being on your own, making decisions and even handling bank accounts. Eventually, you're going to have to deal with those things anyway.
What influence Dean Smith had on you as a young player ?
He taught me a lot about the game. Not just about the athleticism required to play it. I'm a firm believer that when you come out of high school, you are strictly athletic. You've got a lot of athletic talents. Very few players are taught the game the right way in high school. When you go into these college programs, which was the best thing that happened to me, they are going to teach you all aspects of the game of basketball so you can apply that to your athletic skills and develop them. Once you leave college, you are a complete basketball player. Athletically, you are complete. And you know how to utilize that athleticism, and you know how to play the game within the team concept. You got a lot of these kids coming out of high school who never really had the right coaching. They think they can get by with just athleticism. It's not that way. There is very little teaching in the pros. You don't have time to teach. You've got 82 games in a season.
People say that nobody practiced harder, and you worked as hard in practice as you did in a game. There were no two different levels. Is that true ?
I was taught to do it that way by my parents, and by the way they approached their daily activities. It wasn't half-assed. So I practiced like I played. So when I played, playing was fun. Practice is work. You're working on the idiosyncrasies of what your game needs, so when the game comes, you showcase it and you utilize it. You build your game on it. Practice wasn't just a place to take time off. You work on things in practice. On shooting, on going left or on using your left hand—those types of things that help you get better.
You were drafted number three. Did you have any idea before the draft where you were going to go?
At the time I committed to go pro, because of Coach Smith's research, I was projected to go to Philly because Philly was in the third spot. Back in those days, the draft was based on wins and losses. So at the time, Philly was in the third slot. Billy Cunningham was the coach, and he was a Carolina guy. He said based on where we are right now in the third slot, Michael won't go less than three because we'll take him at three. Coach Smith knew that plan. But Chicago started losing games. In those days, if you lost games, you could move up in the draft. So once Chicago moved into third place, Philly moved to fifth because Dallas was coming in as an expansion team and they had the fourth pick. I could have easily gone back to the fifth pick. But then we got assurance from Houston that if they lost the coin flip to Portland, they'd take me—it was a coin flip between the top two teams to determine the first pick. But if Houston won the coin flip, they said they were going to take Hakeem Olajuwon. And that's exactly what happened. Hakeem Olajuwon went to Houston, and Portland went to its fallback pick, which was Sam Bowie. If Portland had won the coin flip, they would have taken Hakeem, and I would have ended up in Houston. But the coin flip came up Houston, and that put me back to third with Chicago.
Did you have a preference for which city you wanted to play in?
Not really. At that time, I just wanted to be drafted.
What was your original deal in Chicago?
Financially? People are going to love this. It was a seven-year deal. I averaged about $850,000 a year. The first year's compensation was $650,000. There was no signing bonus. We tried to get an attendance clause. They were averaging 6,000 people a game. So we thought, OK, we're going to ask for an attendance clause. At the time, Jonathan Kovler was the owner. My agent, David Falk, went in and asked for that. Kovler said, We're not going to give him an attendance clause because if we draft him at the three spot, he'd better put people in the seats. So they never gave us an attendance clause.
Were you unhappy about not getting a raise for seven years ?
No, I wasn't unhappy. Money didn't drive me at that time, so I wasn't worried about it. Once I signed my contract, I felt like, Let's go out and earn the money. And, I was the highest-paid rookie at the time.
Do you have a happiest memory or a peak moment when you were playing with the Chicago Bulls?
My happiest moment? There were so many. Do you want me to start early in my career? Making the playoffs the first time was the biggest thing for me because that franchise hadn't experienced the playoffs in a long, long time. The fans' attitude was "wait until next year, wait till next year."In the third game of my career, we were playing Milwaukee and we were down 16 points going into the fourth quarter. People started to leave. That was their whole attitude. The game was over. I'd never experienced people leaving a game like that. It was something new. Everybody at North Carolina stayed until the end of the game, out of respect to the team.
When you were playing for the Bulls, did you, as a player or as a team, ever have any real rivalries, or was it all hype?
No, we had some rivalries. Early on, it was Milwaukee. We couldn't beat Milwaukee. They were just 45 minutes to an hour away. They were a strong team and they constantly kept beating us. Even when we got in the playoffs, they kept beating us. Then we got to a point where we started beating them. Then the rivalry went from Milwaukee to Detroit. And that was brutal. Isiah [Thomas] was from Chicago, and he wanted to come back and show he still dominated Chicago. I was the new guy in Chicago, and people were supporting the team. It became a dogfight between us. There was some real hatred there. On the floor, it was that whole physicality of the game, and that's what was happening on the basketball court. Anybody going into the paint was going to get knocked down. If you got stitches, you got stitches. Those are the types of games we had. But once we overcame them, then we knew we could do anything. There was no one else beating us, or having that kind of rivalry with us.
What would you say about your biggest rival ?
Once we started winning and got past Detroit, the Knicks became our biggest rivals. They were trying to get where we were. We were trying to maintain what we were. Every battle was magnified. Patrick [Ewing] was a good friend. Charles Oakley used to be in Chicago. John Starks, Charles Smith, Anthony Mason—all these guys. When Detroit was winning, everybody had adopted the physical type of game. New York became that way, too. You go in the middle, you're going to get hit. Patrick was a fierce intimidator.
What was this rumor about Jordan coming to New York?
It was truly a rumor. We had one occasion when there was a dialogue. It must have been in 1996 or 1997 because of my contract situation in Chicago. But nothing ever really materialized.
What was that about the phone call from Chicago ?
If Chicago had not made a significant offer, New York was next. We actually had a dialogue with New York. If a phone call didn't come in 30 minutes from Chicago, we had already given assurances that we would have gone to the Knicks for less money.
How would you fix today's New York Knicks?
I knew that was coming. I don't want to second-guess Isiah. I'm not taking over for Isiah Thomas as general manager.
What would you do if you had been in New York Knicks?
They have a tough team. They have a lot of injuries and a lot of big contracts. First of all, you have to find some commodities that you feel will benefit the New York Knicks, but when you do that, you can't just think one way. You have to find some team that feels that the players on the Knicks will be a better fit for the other team. Until you find the right situations for those players, you have to wait until their existing contracts expire or buy them out of their contracts. For the Knicks, it isn't a financial issue; they are still taking on a lot of contracts
But didn't New York Knicks get rid of a lot of contracts, too?
But they've taken on a lot, too. They are not going to be under the cap any time soon.
Which will be an easier problem to fix, the Knicks or the Lakers?
The Knicks don't have any cap space to create a different team. When you look at the Lakers, they may have one or maybe two sustaining long contracts. The Knicks have four.
How would you fix the Lakers today?
I would have never gotten rid of Shaq [O'Neal]. It's as simple as that. You've got three championships with a big man, and big men are hard to find. Not only that, you have the most dominant big man in the game today. You don't just send him away because you got some problems.
Does Kobe read about what's going on in Miami?
I'm pretty sure he does. But you can't blame one guy. It's a combination of both of them. If you've got success in your house, you find a way to manage so that everybody prospers and everybody is viewed as champions. Personalities got involved after they'd had some success. It becomes about individuals—individual goals that they wanted to achieve. Be it Kobe leading the league in scoring and carrying the team by himself, or Shaq proving he can win without Kobe. What's the purpose of changing if you've got the right mixture that's working? Give me a seven-footer and I'd probably still be playing right now.
The media have made a big thing about drugs this year. Is this something new or something that was around in the '80s and the '90s?
Drugs have been in the game for a long time. They were there when I was in college, and even in high school. It's in life. It's in business. It's everywhere. It starts with the kids of tomorrow, and how those kids are brought up and what their values are. And how the parents teach those kids those values. If you don't take the time to teach those values, they will make the same mistakes. Is it still prevalent in sports? Yes.
It seems like for the first time in football, baseball and basketball, both on the union's side and in management, they are understanding what drugs are and that they have to do everything in their power to stop their use. Was that the case in the past?
No. Drug use was hidden in a lot of sports a long time ago. Now it's out in the open, be it steroids in baseball or steroids in football. Steroids have never been prevalent in professional basketball. But you got a lot of marijuana smoking and drug use like cocaine. All that stuff has been in the NBA. We've been able to curtail it and try to eliminate it, but it's very tough to eliminate. I think marijuana is still strong in the NBA. I'd like to see that paid more attention to. I think [NBA Commissioner] David Stern has done a great job to eliminate all those issues, but no one is going to be able to eliminate it completely.
Do you miss the excitement of basketball?
Yes. I have to stay away from it because of it. I wouldn't say it's an addiction, but it's a passion. When you have a passion, you want to do it as much as possible. Addiction means you can't help yourself. I have a strong passion for the game of basketball.
Did you ever watch the Big O [Oscar Robertson] play?
Yeah, I watched him play. He was an all-around player, but I wouldn't say he was one of the best shooters. But he was one of the best all-around players, in the same category as Magic Johnson, who could rebound, assist and score. Pure shooter, I would say Brian Winters, who played for the Milwaukee Bucks. He had the most beautiful stroke of all the people whom I can think of. You could go, too, with John Paxson, who was next to me in the backcourt in Chicago. Clutch. He doesn't have the best form. But Reggie Miller. Or maybe Jerry West; it's hard picking one.
Where do you think Phil Jackson is going to go? You think he'll stay with the Lakers?
He loves L.A, and he has a great connection with L.A. I think he would consider that.
Explain to me why you are the most popular athlete in all sports ?
You ask me, and I wouldn't know. My personality is my personality. I'm very real when people see me. The way that I'm protected, I am as close to normal as anyone could be. In terms of my accolades and the way I played the game, those things had something to do with it, along with the marketability of Michael Jordan. And I don't quit. I'm a very competitive person. That could be taken in a lot of different ways. Some people take it in a negative way, and some people take it in a positive way.
There have been players who have gone public with a lot of complaining that ends up hurting them, but you've been fairly pure and quiet.Can you explain why ?
I think things out well. When I speak, I speak with conviction. If I feel like it's something that best suits me and my person, I deal with it. I say it. I have no problem speaking out publicly about issues. But for personal things, and for things about personal selfishness, or wanting more money, I don't do that. Once I give my word, that's it. I don't go back to renegotiate. I don't renegotiate my contracts.
How did you get into endorsements?
When I came into the pros, I never knew anything about the business aspect outside of basketball. All I focused on was basketball. The beauty was what my agents, David Falk and Donald Dell, did back in the Bulls days. They took what I did on the basketball court and attached a marketing value to it, and connected me to companies that had the same values that I had from the basketball standpoint. Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Hanes, Sara Lee. Those type of things. They built a connection from a puzzle that they pieced together because of what I portrayed on the basketball court.
It's been 20 years since Nike launched the first Air Jordan shoe, and today, it's turned into Brand Jordan, a significant business for Nike. How did the relationship happen, and what role do you play?
I never wore a Nike shoe until I signed with Nike. I wore Converse in college, and I was a big Adidas fan. Then Nike came to me about creating my own shoe. They wanted to put my name on my shoe, and [let me] have input into the design of the shoe. I'd never heard of that before. It was a great pitch. It gave me an opportunity to learn more about the shoe industry, and they gave me an opportunity to create. I sat down with the designers and I talked to them about my personality and things that I like and things I feel people may like. We put all those thoughts into a brand, into the Jordan brand and into the shoe.Things just started to progress. The public adapted to it and accepted it. We continued to create and lead, and the public kept following and following. It has continued for 20 years. We pride ourselves on putting certain values in the products. Determination.Competitiveness. Design. Creativity. Style. Those are all the things that make up my personality. And they have been turned into a product that sells. The public has received that message consistently each and every time. That has aided the success of the brand.
Do you have any official responsibilities?
No, I maintain my independent endorser status. But I approve all the decisions for Brand Jordan.
When did you decide that the last chapter, or in an important future chapter, you should be an NBA owner instead of just a player or an endorser?
It was an acquired taste. When I came in as a player, I was dumbfounded by the business aspect, but I learned about the business of basketball during the 20 years I was involved. I created an appetite in myself to still have an impact on the game and have an influence on the game from a managerial position. I managed a team for a couple of years. I felt like I did a good job with the Washington Wizards, contrary to what people may think. Because of that experience, I still want to have an impact on a basketball team, but I want to do it from an ownership position. I want to have a longtime connection with the game of basketball.
Is that because you see yourself as a businessman, or because you saw things done by management that were good or bad, that you might have changed?
Exactly. Yes, I consider myself a businessperson, and yes, I felt like certain things happened that if I was in ownership, I would have done it differently. I would have made decisions totally differently.
They say that from every experience, good or bad, there is a valuable lesson learned. What lessons did you take out of the Washington Wizards?
I think it exposed me to a lot of decision making. One of the bad decisions I made was to go back and play. Even though I was soothing an itch that I had, I also thought I was being innovative in my job by going down and evaluating the talent firsthand. I thought it would be a good idea to play against them, see what their tendencies were and what we were paying for. But at the same time, I became more critical of them because of the way I played the game and the way I'd approached the game, and the players didn't respond to that. They didn't respond to the desire that I had when I was playing. I may just have gotten too close to see or maybe too critical of certain actions of the players. That was one of the biggest mistakes that I feel I made in Washington.
Do today's contracts, which make young kids instant millionaires, end up slowing down or holding back their own performance because they are so financially secure that they are not giving the kind of effort that you gave to the game?
Values have changed. Those were the days where no matter what you got paid, you played the game to play the game. There are players—some of the young players—who are playing the game for what they are going to get paid. I think that has a lot to do with the success of the NBA. It's a very profitable organization. It's very marketable. There's a lot of outside income that can be generated in terms of what's happening on the basketball court. Yes, it has changed. But you still find a lot of players who play basketball for the love of the game. And those players aren't affected by what they are getting paid.
Do you have a secret dream of one day waking up and you own the Chicago Bulls?
I would love to own the Chicago Bulls because of what the franchise provided to me. It would give me the opportunity to move it further into a successful program. But I do understand that Jerry Reinsdorf is a good owner. He is a very good businessman. He has a family that enjoys the game of basketball. And I totally understand his maintaining his ownership of the Bulls.
When did you start playing golf?
I started playing the summer of 1984. I had just committed to go pro. And I went out and played some holes at North Carolina. I went with a good friend of mine, John Simpkins, who was on the golf team at the time with Al Wood, and we played 18 holes with Davis Love [III], who was attending North Carolina at the time. I parred one of the 18 holes, and I've been hooked ever since.
Aren't you good friends with Tiger Woods?
Oh yeah. Tiger and I met about eight years ago. It's ironic, because he is in the same scenario from a marketing and business standpoint that I was when I came into the NBA. I've been able to answer some of the questions that he's had about dealing with certain things. Our friendship has grown since then. And we talk all the time about mental approach, dealing with the expectations from the public.
I hear that you are a pretty good blackjack player. Is that true?
Well, I lose. Just like everybody else. Does that determine if you're good or not? I know the rules.
There's a wine cellar here in your house.Is it your interest or your wife?
I am a Grade C wine drinker or connoisseur. My wife is a B. She got me involved. Although she's not the only person who got me interested. When I signed with Bijan fragrances, Mr. Bijan took me out one day and we had dinner. He got me a bottle of 1961 Château Margaux. And I fell in love with Bordeaux.
There is one wine story,It's something about a meeting you were having with David Falk, and you started ordering wine to shut him up?
Yeah. We had a dinner meeting and I couldn't get a word in. The meal was on his company bill. Anytime he orders wine, or orders anything, he checks the price. But that night he was taking time out from what we were talking about to make sure about the price. So now I say, Give me the most expensive wine, and he's picking up the tab. Then, I say, Every time you interrupt what we're talking about, I'm going to order another bottle. When I started ordering the '61s, I quieted him right down, and we got through the conversation. That is a true story.